Archive, Editorial

Private Sector Efficiency for the Public Good


I was delighted to meet the new President and Chief Executive Officer of The DC Chamber of Commerce Harry Wingo several months back, and even more so when I learned about one of the reasons for his visit to Blue Plains.  He informed me that I had been selected as the 2014 Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber!

My reaction: Wow! More on that in a second.

I want to mention that I believe Mr. Wingo is the right person for this high profile position.  Barbara Lang was a wonderful leader for the DC Chamber and really built the organization into a force in the District.  Harry is just the right person to follow in her formidable footsteps.  He brings a level of dynamism and ideas – forged in a background that ranges from the Navy SEALS to Yale to several fantastic business successes – that will take the Chamber to the next level of service.  Following through on the promise and reality that the District is business friendly – to strengthen the remarkable resurgence of the city – is an absolute priority for our future.

And wow again, what an honor to be selected by a business organization as a business leader.  I received the award at the Chamber’s huge Gala at the new sparkling Marriot Marquis hotel.  The Chamber created videos of each winner that evening, in part I think to keep us all from running on too long in any speeches.  The video is wonderful, created for the Chamber by Foundation Digital Media:

DC Water from Foundation Digital Media on Vimeo.

This is a very important award for me and DC Water for three reasons.

DC Water for Business—DC Water is an absolutely essential service to every business, no matter the size or service, in the District.  Of course, we are directly driving tremendous business development with our $515 million operating budget and $625 million capital budget. Being sure that the direct economic output is driving activity in the District – where we raise most of the funds and do most of the work – is a priority at DC Water.  Yet we are also mindful of how essential we are to every job in the region, which simply cannot function without clean water, and the infrastructure necessary to deliver it and then take it back once it has been used!  Business investments in DC Water are fundamentally good for business!

DC Water as Business—We are pleased to receive this award as part of our evolution.  Part of my focus for this enterprise, and our entire sector for that matter, is to help transform our sense of self into business terms.  Although a public institution, we have the one stakeholder that may be even more demanding than a shareholder – which is a ratepayer and customer.  We need to deliver a first-class customer service experience to the vast population we serve daily.  We need financial and operational measures that are comparable to any water firm – public or private – and we need to maintain transparent public reporting on our performance.  We need to have efficient business procedures for everything we do and have systems designed to ensure we are always improving.  We need to have a research and innovations program to deliver the next generation of new ideas, services and revenue generation.  DC Water is a business and we need to think like one, every minute of every day.

GM as Business Leader—At the next meeting, the Board will consider adding the title “Chief Executive Officer” to my title.  This is actually not an unusual decision, many of my brethren around the country have the “CEO” title.  This title is not changing the nature of the job I do, but is recognizing that the position has changed – from one that is mostly concerned about the management of the operations of the enterprise, to one charting a strategic course and interacting with stakeholders internal and external to the enterprise to be sure we can reach our goals.

The bottom line, as it were, is that I am hugely honored and humbled to be presented with a business leader award in the nation’s capital!  I realize every day that I would be unable to undertake the job of a Chief Executive without knowing that the scope of our work every day – massive in importance, size and scale – is overseen by the finest Executive Team in the business.  I know I would not even be considered for an award of this nature without the superior efforts of this team:
Walt Bailey, Assistant GM, Blue Plains
Len Benson, Chief Engineer
Randy Hayman, General Counsel
Rosalind Inge, Assistant GM for Support Services
Charles Kiely, Assistant GM for Customer Care & Operations
Mark Kim, Chief Financial Officer
Tom Kuzcinski, Chief Information Officer
John Lisle, Chief of External Affairs
Katrina Wiggins, Chief of Staff
And, I must highlight Lisa Barton, who is my Senior Executive Assistant, who makes the GM’s office, and my work, hum with business-like efficiency, and is one of my closest friends in the District as well.

Thank you DC Chamber for the Award. We are pleased at how far we have come, but know we have much more to do.  You have my pledge to keep at it— just like our service itself—24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year!

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